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How Fortnite has become a hotbed for money laundering

A recent investigation has revealed criminals are riding the success of Fortnite to launder money.

An investigation by The Independent in partnership with cybersecurity firm Sixgill found that stolen credit cards are being used to purchase the virtual currency inside Fortnite, called V-bucks.

Criminals then sell those V-bucks to players at a reduced rate to launder the illicitly obtained money.

Surprisingly enough, the operation is not this shady global scheme taking place only in the blackest corners of the dark web. This is an illegal operation carried out in plain sight on popular platforms like Twitter.

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“Criminals are executing carding fraud and getting money in and out of the Fortnite system with relative impunity,” said Benjamin Preminger, a senior intelligence analyst at Sixgill.

“Threat actors – a malicious person or entity – are scoffing at Epic Games’ weak security measures, saying that the company doesn’t seem to care about players defrauding the system and purchasing discounted V-bucks… This directly touches on the ability of threat actors to launder money through the game.”

Exactly how much are criminals profiting from this is hard to calculate, but Sixgill found Fortnite items raked in more than A$350,000 on eBay in a 60-day period last year.

The numbers are mind-blowing, and it was just a matter of time for crooks to use the game’s popularity to their advantage. Fortnite currently has a user base of more than 200 million players all over the globe, which generated some A$4 billion for developer Epic Games in 2018 alone.

Criminals usually trade with Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, which makes it even more difficult for authorities to track them down and for investigators to calculate the precise extent of their crimes.

IT security firm Zerofox did their own digging, and in a separate investigation found a staggering 53,000 different instances of online Fornite scams between early September and early October in 2018. They estimated that 86 per cent of those were not shared on the dark web, but via mainstream social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

According to Sixgill analyst Preminger, Epic Games isn’t paying much attention to the murky deals taking place under their noses.

“Epic Games doesn’t seem to clamp down in any serious way on criminal activity surrounding Fortnite, money laundering or otherwise,” he said.

“While completely stopping such criminal activity is extremely difficult, several steps could be taken to mitigate the phenomenon, including monitoring the transfer of high-value goods in the game, identifying players with large stockpiles of V-bucks, and sharing data with relevant law enforcement agencies.”

About the author

Filmmaker. 3D artist. Procrastination guru. I spend most of my time doing VFX work for my upcoming film Servicios Públicos, a sci-fi dystopia about robots, overpopulated cities and tyrant states. @iampineros

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